Can You Build a Better Cop? Experimental Evidence on Supervision, Training, and Policing in the Community

Emily Owens*, David Weisburd, Karen L. Amendola, Geoffrey P. Alpert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Research Summary: By drawing from psychology and economics, we present an experimental evaluation of a procedural justice training program designed to “slow down” police officers’ thought processes during citizen encounters. We find that officers who were randomly assigned to participate in training were as engaged in the community as similarly situated officers, but they were less likely to resolve incidents with an arrest or to be involved in incidents where force was used. These changes were most evident among officers who worked in areas with a modest level of risk. Policy Implications: Police officers who are actively engaged with the public can reduce crime through general deterrence and by arresting criminals. Nevertheless, excessive discretionary arrests and the use of force by officers can reduce public trust in the police. To date, there is scant evidence as to how police departments can successfully train officers to balance enforcement and public trust in the field. Through our study, we demonstrate that a relatively minor supervisory intervention may cause substantive changes in how police and citizens interact with each other.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)41-87
Number of pages47
JournalCriminology and Public Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Society of Criminology


  • field experiments
  • job training
  • policing
  • procedural justice


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